We all know that game, don't we? How many poker players have blamed their results on their opponent's poor play? How many players have blamed their losses on online poker being rigged or some faulty random number generator? How many players have blamed their results on drinking, fatigue or tilt? There's no getting around that poker players are prone to play the blame game.
In the wake of poker's Black Friday, it has been no different.
First, poker players blamed the U.S. Department of Justice. How could they take away our poker over unfair charges?
Players blamed Barrack Obama, a supposed poker player who seemed to abandon the community by not prioritizing legislation and regulation during his time in office while signing off on the recent DOJ indictments. George W. Bush, who helped initiate the murky environment we find ourselves in today under the UIGEA naturally received considerable blame.
As players learned more about the situation the blame started to spread...
It was Daniel Tzvetkoff's fault for ratting out the major sites to save himself from processing charges. Or could it have been Douglas Renick, an earlier processor nabbed, or even Neteller, the first major processor that negotiated a deal in exchange for providing ongoing information on the processing industry.
As damaging details came out about financial impropriety from PokerStars and Full Tilt regarding miscoding, bank fraud, money laundering, collusion and other claims, the focus of blame started to shift onto their own culpability for blatantly violating reasonable processing in order to ensure greater profit and control. In fact I just found an announcement from February of this 2010 where PokerStars explicitly stated they do not nor ever have engaged in the practice of miscoded credit card transaction. Something that we now know not to be true according to the DOJ indictments.
The third largest U.S. facing poker room indicted, Absolute Poker (UB), already had a long history of cheating customers and questionable business decisions so the current indictments only seemed to reaffirm the prior mistrust and blame players felt towards that site. Absolute has been the most uncooperative and unclear about their strategy in the wake of the indictments. Many fear they will go out of business and not return funds to players.
As the days passed, the players started to blame the Poker Players Alliance, the purported representative voice for U.S. players due to their mixed and muddled message. Their credibility was undermined when it was discovered that most of their funding was coming from the two main poker rooms under indictment.
Going hand in hand with the blame attributed for our current Black Friday predicament is blame at why poker legislation hasn't progressed adequately to ensure poker players of a regulated option by now. It is a vastly complex political and legal environment where there are many opposing forces.
* Interstate vs. Intrastate interests
* Supporters like Harry Reid or Barney Frank vs. Opponents like Jon Kyl, Bill Frist, Mitch McConnell or Spencer Bachus
* Democrat vs. Republican vs. Libertarian minded Tea Party members
* Horse racing interests vs. lottery interests vs. tribal casinos vs. land-based casinos vs. off-shore poker rooms
One example from the many influential members from the above list is Gary Loveman, CEO and Chairman of Caesars Entertainment. Yesterday, he had published a compelling and pragmatic sounding op-ed piece...
When you read it you are struck by how positive and pragmatic it sounds. He wants to seen as the savior of online poker when in fact his company for years was against online poker legislation to protect their live gambling business, undermining numerous previous efforts. Only more recently has Caesars embraced the notion that online poker will increase their reach and profit in a supplementary, not a predatory, fashion have they started to lobby for a leading role in the new regulated environment. As a poker player, I applaud any reasoned argument and lobbying effort to created a strong licensed and regulated environment for players to play poker, but let's not kid ourselves as to Loveman's transparent grab for the control and profits that will come from the newly regulated poker environment.
Last night, there was a healthy discussion on the QuadJacks poker radio show discussing blame in the poker media. It is a relatively young industry without much of a history of independent hard-hitting investigative journalism. The economic underpinning of most poker news sites as affiliates of the major poker rooms has always created a tension regarding any overt criticism or investigation. This has led to claims of "soft handling" of serious reporting news that might reflect negatively towards their sponsors and advertisers or more fundamentally in the opaque manner in which many of the news sites are trying to steer readers to sign up to the rooms they report on to profit off of their play.
I participated on the panel for part of the discussion and may have come across as a bit of an apologist in the face of the unrelenting media critics assembled, but that is more a result of my desire to provide a more balanced perspective in understanding the difficulty in managing the tricky line of running a money making venture.
Part of what has inspired me to listen for many hours to the round-the-clock coverage has been the feeling of returning to an earlier era, at least in my life experience. One in which people came together not out of some monetary allegiance but out of a collective desire to question and inform, and not to sell. Within those confines QuadJacks has brought together many fine poker minds to digest and reflect on the happenings since Black Friday. They have broken news, introduced cutting edge analysis, interviewed many poker personalities and insiders all in an effort to advance the cause of the poker community.
It reminds me of my senior year in college. After several years of not finding my place, I discovered and befriended the principals that ran and wrote the underground somewhat subversive student newspaper. We all considered ourselves intellectuals and firebrands seeking to expose the hypocritical, phony, inconsistent or implausible elements we saw around us. We were young and idealistic. Essentially self-funded, we weren't accountable to anyone.
The blame game is easy to play from that framework. It is easy to point the finger outside ourselves. Without a doubt if you look hard enough, there are very few subjects that can withstand that scrutiny. What is often overlooked in the overall blame game is to turn the spotlight on ourselves. What did we do to contribute to your present situation? Where are we guilty of similar nonchalance or inaction that led to where we are? Where could different action on our parts avoided the predicament we find ourselves in? How are the people that we criticize like us? What can we do now to change ourselves and our future?
So while there are many elements of American governance and industry that may deserve blame, we too need to step up. We need to educate ourselves to the realities of our poker world. We need to share that knowledge with our friends and family. We need to communicate to our media to spread the word. We need to have our governmental representatives be aware of our position and proactively make steady progress in creating a safe and secure environment for responsible adults to play poker.